The news came about three weeks ago… Ronnie Talerico, general manager of Sky Rink and the force behind the weekend morning Ronnie’s Ice sessions, was resigning from Sky Rink at the end of July. Ronnie ran Sky Rink and Ronnie’s Ice even before Sky Rink had moved from the top of a skyscraper to the sports complex, putting his tenure at the rink at 20+ years.

I started attending the early morning sessions somewhere between late summer and early fall 2002. I’d only started playing hockey that spring and was in need of more practice so I wouldn’t be so skittish on the ice. Laurie Woods, a teammate on the Tigers, invited me to join her for Ronnie’s Ice because it was a great place to learn since it had a combination of drills and scrimmage.

I got hooked quickly and it was a rare Saturday morning over the years that I wouldn’t be on the ice. It didn’t matter if it started at 4am or 8am, although I liked the super early sessions better because it limited the number and that meant more ice time. I estimate that I attended at least 40 weeks out of any given year, which means I’ve done 720+ hours of Ronnie’s Ice. I’ve loved every minute of it.

Coach/goalie Tommy hit the nail on the head yesterday during the post-session farewell party. It was far more than the ice time that made Ronnie’s Ice special, it was the people that attended. Ronnie put together an amazing core group of people that cut across age groups and skill levels where everyone had a good time. This is the place I was able to play with people far above my skill level and not made to feel inept. If I fouled something up, there was good coaching and encouragement and a willingness to try it again (and again and again since sometimes my body wouldn’t always do what my brain had in mind). I will miss seeing and playing with these people on a routine basis because it helped my game to improve.

There was no better time to improve than in the middle of winter when Ronnie’s Ice started at four or five in the morning. Only the core group would show up and we’d get great drills, small games and half ice scrimmages. I’m going to miss these sessions the most as it meant playing with a great group that included Ronnie, Laurie, Allison, Roman, Joe, the brothers Andrew and Gordy, Matt, Andre, Eugene, Mike, Ryan, John and Andrew… just to name a few of the most memorable folks over the years. It was worth getting up (and even getting home) well before dawn for these two hours of hockey.

There may be another Saturday morning practice ice set up at Sky Rink, but I can’t see it having the same feel that Ronnie’s Ice did.

More than the loss of the great practice ice is the loss of Ronnie at Sky Rink. He did a lot to improve my game over the years–constant encouragement, personal lessons, keeping tabs on me if I was out for injury. He supported my Braking the Cycle efforts by not only personally donating, but providing ice time so I could hold scrimmages to raise money. He’s also been a great supporter of the NYCGHA, sending novice players my way when I served as the association’s player development coordinator. Over the years he was not only a coach, but a good friend.

I will miss seeing him, and playing with him, on a weekly basis. I wish him nothing but the best with whatever he does next.

Weekend Hockey Wrap-up: There were three games this weekend for me. On Friday, the Boxers met up with, and lost massively to, the Wild Turkeys 7-1. The Boxers had redemption on Saturday as we shut out the Tsunami with a score of 6-0. I also subbed in for the Bombers, which lost 4-1 to Velocity. The Friday Boxers loss was rough, but it was great the Boxers bounced back so soundly. The Saturday games felt really good and were fun (even the loss). It was particularly great to play D with Jonathan in the Bombers game. I haven’t had much chance to partner with him since I left the Wizards and it was great to pair up again.